Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Our Defenses are Offensive: A Brigade Sidestep

In ancient times (the 80s), I used to always wear some button on my shirt.  This was partially to prove to the world how cool I was, but also often to make a statement of some kind.  My favorite button, which I wore most often, was a small version of the #6 button worn by Patrick McGoohan in "The Prisoner." That could, and might be, a blog all in itself.

Other buttons were one that said "question reality" one was the symbol yin and yang, and one said "our defenses are offensive" and had a picture of a

missile on it. This latter one implied that not only was it offensive that we had enough nukes to blow the world up dozens of times, but also that we used supposedly defensive weapons offensively. 

I bring this up in a sidestep because Trump has succumbed to the military's wishes and agreed to send more troops to Afghanistan.  I'll get to that war shortly, but I think it's important to bring up some topics about our military.

For example, we spend more on our military then the next 12 high spenders combined.  This in itself is outrageous, but that Trump, for some reason, believes we need to spend even more is goofy.  I have some doubts he really believes the US needs to spend more, he sees his statements as just sound bites to appease the masses.  This unending pushing of money onto the military is undoubtedly attributed to the "military-industrial" complex Ike warned us about (but which congress/presidents love).

The "industrial" part of this evil alliance is easy to understand.  They want to make boatloads of money.  The military is a little more complicated.  Part of it is money because we see a ton of generals who retire and begin to lobby for
weapons manufacturers.  As a former enlisted person (note that none of us are ever recruited by weapons companies) it always chafed me that the military/generals loved spending big bucks on fancy and expensive weapon systems, but always bought the cheapest equipment for us grunts in the trenches.  Guess the companies can't make money off of things like boots, backpacks, tents, etc.  So they'll spend billions on a new jet, and about 69 cents for a rain poncho.

The military has an added incentive though for large spending excesses: they have a military mindset that big militaries win wars.  Oh sure, sending a military after another big military might be good when it's against a country.  It doesn't work for smaller insurrections and guerilla wars.  The military brass doesn't accept this.  A military solution doesn't work against a belief/ideology.  Ask the French about Algeria; the British about Ireland; the Soviet Union about Afghanistan and us about Vietnam (and now Afghanistan).
I’d add Iraq into the latter, but that might really set folks off.  Too many believe we won the war in Iraq.  Sure, we ousted Saddam Hussein, but even when we left there were still countless attacks going on including bombings by insurgents.  They had subsided a little, but it wasn’t due to “The Surge” as the military will tell you.  If you look at the record, you’ll see that after the surge we had higher casualties and more attacks against our forces.  It was only after the “Sunni Awakening” that things calmed down.  In other words, the people who lived there finally did something.
That’s related to Afghanistan too.  For some reason, many Americans think we drove out the Taliban.  However, when the Taliban were driven from the country, we had at best 1,000 troops there.  No, the Afghans drove out the Taliban.  The Northern Alliance and other warlords did it, admittedly with our logistical support as well as air and artillery firepower. 

It was only after the Taliban had been cleared out of the country that we began to infuse massive numbers of ground troops.  The military kept insisting we needed more and more troops, and different presidents listened.  However, what the military didn’t stress when asking for more troops was the actual number of enemy troops. 
I’ve heard non-military affiliated analysts claim that there may only be a total of 15-20,000 Taliban fighters.  So we increased our troops up to 100,000 at one time (2010) to face down a mere handful of fighters.  Our troops have some impressive weapons, body armor, night-vision goggles, etc., while the Taliban dress in robes and fight with 60s-era AK47s.  Our troops get to a battle in million dollar helicopters, they get to the battle by riding in 10-year old Nissan pickups. 

We finally wised up a little and have begun to let the Afghans do the fighting, with our troop level now at 8,000 (although recent reports state the military lied and we really have 11,000), but now the military says they want more.  So this never-ending war will continue.  I should point out that Iraq War featured a similar overwhelming level of troops versus the enemy.  Some estimated the insurgents in Iraq only numbered about 30,000 while we had at one time over 150,000.  But that’s a whole different can of worms.  The main point I’m getting at is when you listen to the military, they’ll always say they want more.  More troops, more equipment, more money.
We need to get away from this unbridled spending on the military and nation-building adventurism.  We have military personnel in 148 different countries.  We have actually bases in 38 of those nations.  How about spending equal to only the next top five other countries and investing that savings in things like universal healthcare and infrastructure improvements?  Let’s bring our troops home from half of those countries (if not more) and let those countries spend their own money on defense instead of using our resources.

People often say their son or daughter is fighting for our freedom by serving in the military.  No they aren’t.  They’re serving our country, but our freedom is not threatened by most of the countries where we have our troops stationed (or do you believe the Taliban is going to load troops onto ships and send them over here?).  So bring the troops home so they really are defending our shores and not someone else’s.  Let’s try to make our defenses defensive, not offensive.
"Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness."

The Thurber Brigade once again apologizes for this sidestep away from the usual "War Between Men and Women" (relationships), but as usual the author got annoyed and so, ta da, sidestep.  Annoyed that some military experts say we must send even more troops into another endless war.  Well, what makes an expert?  The author served in the military as a grunt, has researched the military for articles and books, has read over 100 books on the military and various wars.  Because he was a lowly enlisted person and not some high ranking general itching to send more troops into harm's way, he is not consulted about these things.  So at least he is able to get this off his chest.  The Thurber Brigade will get back to the straight and narrow next time. Maybe.